How To Catch Grass Carp

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Grass carp are loads of fun to catch. Although not as common as the common carp, grass carp can be found in most parts of the US. They were brought here in the 1960s for the purpose of keeping ponds clear of obnoxious vegetation overgrowth. Some of these carp escaped and spread to other waters. They are still used as a tool to improve water quality, and are stocked in many ponds.

Later in this article I’ll go more into the information on the grass carp and how it differs from it’s evil cousin the silver carp. But first, lets get into the fun stuff. How to fish for grass carp!

Where to Find Grass Carp

Grass carp are usually found in ponds as they get stocked to control weeds. It’s usually easy to find out where grass carp are, just by a quick online search of your area. But if you suspect there are grass carp in a specific pond but can’t find any information on it, Just take a walk around the lake.

Grass carp are usually found swimming around the shallows. Sometimes you’ll see some movement in tall grass where the carp are swimming through feeding.

Here in Arizona, grass carp are stocked in the canals to keep the weeds down. If you go out early in the morning, you can see them swimming near the surface feeding on seeds, bugs and vegetation that gets blown in.

If there are carp in the pond or river, it shouldn’t be too long before you spot them. But you’ll have to be sneaky. Carp are wary fish, and if they see you, they’ll spook.

Rod and Reel to Catch Grass Carp

You Don’t need anything too serious for grass carp. A Medium action rod at least 7 feet long will do. If you want to go all out on carp fishing then consider a carp specific rod such as what you can find at A 12 foot carp rod may just be what you need if you are making long casts from the bank.

Rod Length

The longer length helps you to cast farther which helps when fishing for these wary fish. An 8 or 9 foot rod would be great if you have one. Salmon and steelhead rods usually have good specs.

Rod Action

Medium action is good especially if you plan to use circle hooks. Circle hooks work best with rods that have a softer tip. It’ll help set that hook right in the corner of the carps mouth.

A fast action rod would be ok if you are using J-hooks and fish with an open bail or bait-n-run reel. If a carp sucks in your bait but feels the pull of your rod, then he’ll try to spit it right back out. You don’t want him to feel you until he is confidently swimming off with your bait.

Below are the specs of the rod I use for grass carp. It’s really nothing special, but it works great.

Rod specs
Rod specs written on the rod blank.

Tackle to Catch Grass Carp


A lot of grass carp anglers use braided main line with a mono or fluoro leader. Grass carp can become cautious when they see the leader. mono and fluoro will be less visible.

If you are surface fishing for grass carp, then you may want to fish with a full fluoro line. Carp are always more cautious when feeding on the surface.

If you are using braided line then around 30 pound test would be good.

If you use mono or fluoro I’d recommend around 10 to 15 pound test. This is a little on the light side, but you don’t want the carp to see your line. I have caught carp on a 2 pound main line before so 15 pound should be plenty.


As with most types of fishing, your hook is one of your most important tools. Using the right size and shape of hook, and making sure that hook is razor sharp, will make the biggest difference in how many bites result in landed fish. So make sure you get good hooks. There are two types that anglers use to catch grass carp. J-hooks and circle hooks.

Bait Holder hook for grass carp

The J-hook is pretty standard. They are shaped like the letter J. They have a straight shank, a U shaped bend, and the point is in line with the shank.

Some of these hooks will have an extra barb or two on the shank. These are referred to as bait holder hooks. the barbs on the shank will help to keep bait such as worms on the hook. Gamakatsu makes a good sharp version of this.

Circle hooks
circle hook for grass carp

Circle hooks were designed by saltwater anglers as a hook that works well for practicing catch and release. The point of the hook is bent inwards to be perpendicular to the shank.

The bent in hook point helps prevent the hook from sticking deep down in the throat or stomach. If a fish swallows the hook, it will usually slide out until it reaches the corner of the mouth where is can twist and stick in.

You don’t want to set the circle hook by ripping your rod back. In fact it’s best to leave it in the rod holder and let the hook do it’s job. This is a good thing if you wanna kick back and read a book, or enjoy the scenery.

Hook Size

Grass carp mouths aren’t huge, but they aren’t tiny either. Although they could fit a bigger hook in their mouth, it’s better to use small hooks. Small hooks are easy to hide in the bait. And keeping a hook hidden is important when trying to catch one of these wise guys.

For Circle hooks use around a size 2 or 4.

For J-hooks use sizes 8, 10 and 12

If you want some more information, check out this article on carp hooks.


Egg sinker on the left and flat sinker on the right

I mentioned above that you can catch grass carp by stocking or casting and waiting. If you are going to cast and wait, then using a sinker is usually the way to go.

You want to target the areas that grass carp roam. This is usually going to be in shallow water near grass and weeds. If you use a float, then you risk your hook drifting into the snags. You also want to avoid having to cast too often because the splash will spook the carp.

Sinkers For Ponds

Since we usually catch grass carp in ponds, the main purpose of the sinker is to help you cast farther. You want to use just enough weight to accurately cast the distance you need. Depending on your rod and how far you need to cast, this can be anywhere from 1/2 oz. to 2 oz. I would start with a 1/2 oz. sinker and if it wasn’t giving me the distance I needed then I’d go up from there.

Big sinkers make big splashes, and are more likely to get snagged, so use as little weight as possible. The shape doesn’t matter so much when fishing in a pond, but inline egg sinkers are cheap, easy to find, and easy to use.

Sinkers For Rivers and Canals

If you are trying to catch grass carp in a river or canal, then you need a sinker that is going to keep your bait pinned down. The stronger the current, and the more line you cast out, the heavier the sinker you will need.

It’s a good idea to use flat no roll sinkers in current. If possible try to cast down stream. If you have a boat then this is easy.


When grass carp are feeding on the surface, a float may help you reach them. But remember that grass carp are extremely cautious when eating off the surface, so the splash of a float will send them off in the other direction. Use the clear plastic floats. These will look like a bubble in the water to fish.

The trick is to watch the direction the fish is feeding. Grass carp will usually swim around the pond or up the stream looking for food. Try to cast well ahead of where you think they are headed.

When fishing for grass carp in canals, I like to go well upstream of where I see them feeding. I’ll toss my float and bread out to the middle of the canal, open my bail and feed line out by hand. This gives a natural presentation that will float right up to the feeding carp.

Grass Carp Bait

packbait for carp

We’ll get into the actual bait soon, but first it’ll help to understand what grass carp eat naturally.

What do Grass Carp Eat?

Aquatic Vegetation

Grass carp eat grass… They also like moss, algae and other vegetation growing in the pond. It isn’t easy to put these types of things on a hook, and if it’s plentiful in the pond then you’ll have a hard time making it stand out to the fish.


In some areas you get fruit trees like figs growing along ponds. At the right time of year, the fruit will ripen and fall off or be dropped in the water by birds. During these times of year, grass carp can be found waiting under or near by these trees. It’s like a natural chumming done for you. If you can, use the same fruit as bait, or at least something that closely resembles it.


Grass carp will occasionally eat bugs if opportunity presents itself. These could be aquatic bugs like water beetles or worms. If they are feeding off the surface then they’ll take something like a grasshopper that got blown in.

Lawn Clippings

This is an interesting one. If the pond is in a park surrounded by grass which gets mowed regularly, then some of those lawn clippings are going to end up in the water. You can look at it as another form of non-intentional chumming. But good luck getting a blade of grass to effectively stay on the hook.

What to Use For Bait

Now that we understand what grass carp eat naturally, let’s get into the baits!


This is a good ol’ classic carp bait. It’s used a lot when fishing for common carp, but of course you can use it to catch grass carp because they love it too.

Corn is cheap. You can buy a can of sweet corn for under a dollar at most grocery stores. You can keep a can of corn in your tackle box without worrying about it going bad any time soon. Just remember to bring a can opener!

Feed corn is another option. You buy it in bulk bags at the animal feed store. It comes dry and hard, so make sure you soak it in water the day before. The kernels are bigger and stay on the hook better. If you are doing a lot of chumming, then you can save money by using feed corn.

Corn is easy to put directly onto your hook. Use a few kernels to get the shank of the hook covered, but keep the bend and point open to ensure a good hookset.

If you want to get fancy, use a hair rig. This works well when you are having problems with small fish. Small fish also love corn, so you might catch a lot of bluegill. Using a hair rig can sometimes prevent them from swallowing your hook and wasting your time. Hair rigs also help keep turtles off your hook.

Hair rig for corn
A hair rig and DIY baiting needle

Here’s a video on how to tie a hair rig…


Tomatoes are a fairly popular bait to catch grass carp. Cherry tomatoes in particular are the best. These are flavorful, and the red color catches the carps eye.

Cut the cherry tomato in half or fourths. Then just put a piece right on the hook. Be sure you go through the skin of the tomato, this will help keep your hook from tearing out.

It’s not necessary to use a hair rig for tomatoes unless you are using whole cherry tomatoes. But I feel like cutting the tomato open lets out more of the juices anyways. I’d only use a whole cherry tomato on a hair rig if I was having trouble with small fish stealing my bait. Or if I was hooking turtles.


Bread punch. How to fish with bread.
Use different size straws to make perfect bread pellets.

This is my favorite bait to catch grass carp in the canals. Here in Arizona, if you go out in the morning or evening, then you can see grass carp swimming near the surface sucking food off the top. This is where bread excels.

In fact I have written an entire article on how to catch grass carp with bread.

The most important thing about fishing with bread is knowing how to keep it on the hook. The trick is to microwave it for about 10 seconds. This will make it more rubbery so it won’t crumble off. You also need to start with a moist bread and keep it moist. Don’t leave the bag open or it will dry out fast! Wonder Bread is cheap and easy to find and makes some of the best bread bait.

If chumming is allowed, throw in a few pieces of bread to get the fish used to eating it. Next, put a fluffy piece of bread about the size of a quarter on your hook and toss it out. When a grass carp sucks it down, count one second then set the hook!

Bread works great at duck ponds. If you are fishing in a park pond, then people probably go there to feed ducks often. Some of that bread will escape the ducks and be eaten by fish. So the carp in your pond may already be used to eating bread.

If you want to fish your bread subsurface, then mush it into a ball around your hook. Having moist bread that has been microwaved is the best for this.

The problem with bread is that all fish love bread. If there are a lot of smaller fish in the water then they will steal your bread before a grass carp gets a chance to see it.

Pack Bait

pack bait for pond fishing

Pack bait is actually a type of bait and a technique. It’s most often used for common carp and mirror carp in the UK, but works just as well to catch grass carp.

Pack bait is a mixture of ingredients that can be packed into a big ball over your hook, then quickly break apart after you cast, to expose your hook and bait.

Some popular pack baits in the US include ingredients like grits, panko bread crumbs, bird seed, corn, flavored powders like jello, Kool Aid, and hot chocolate… the list can go on and on.

Here is a recipe for a simple grits pack bait

Mix the following ingredients in a bucket

  • 18 oz. of instant grits
  • 24 oz. of quick grits
  • 1 pack of jello powder
  • 2 cups of Karo syrup

Since grass carp really like fruits, be sure to add some fruit flavor like the jello powder. You can also blend up some actual berries which will be packed with flavor.

How To Use Pack Bait

When using pack bait you still need to have some sort of bait attached directly to your hook. This could be as simple as a few pieces of corn.

Next, take a handful of your pack bait and form it into a ball with your hook in the center. The ball of pack bait should be about the size of a baseball. If the pack bait doesn’t form a good ball, then it may be too dry or too wet.

Mess around with the ingredients until you get it just right. It should form a tight ball that will stay on your hook when you cast, but break apart in the water within a couple minutes.

Cast out and wait for the fish to come by. You can also throw out balls of pack bait by hand for accurate chumming around your hook.

grass carp fishing
Grass carp I caught on strawberry jello, panko, sweetcorn pack bait.


Moss or algae is a tricky one. It’s difficult to keep on the hook, and sometimes difficult to harvest. But this is likely the main diet of grass carp in your pond if it is present.

I first came across this method while living in Taiwan. The old fishermen would pull it out of the water, and just wrap it around their hook. They would fish it under a bobber. Many of the old timers swore by it.

To be honest, I haven’t tried it in the US. I have more confidence in corn, bread, and tomatoes. But if you can’t get the fish to bite, then give it a try.

Many anglers who fly-fish for carp will use moss imitations. The synthetic materials won’t go flying off when you cast, and with fly line you can cast them far. You can try tying or buying one of these imitations and using a clear float to cast it out on your spinning rod.


I haven’t experimented with this. It would obviously be difficult to keep it on the hook. But remember what I said above about lawn clippings being blown into the pond? Well in theory, if the carp are feeding on it, and you can find a way to keep some grass on your hook, then you should be able to catch grass carp.

I’d start with a very small light weight hook (maybe a size 14) and load it with grass clippings so I have a nice cluster. Then use a clear float to lightly toss it out. You probably wouldn’t be able to cast very far without the grass flying off the hook, so use your best sneaky tactics to creep up on carp near the bank.

Chumming For Grass Carp

Chumming can be a great method to catch grass carp. Grass carp are constantly cruising around the pond or river looking for food. The purpose of chumming is to have the area which you plan to fish covered with food. That way when the carp come across that area, they will stop to feed long enough that you can catch a few.

Spreading out your chum will keep the carp in the area for longer as they are on a sort of Easter egg hunt for all the free food. And they become comfortable with eating whatever it is you chum with, so when they come across a piece with your hook in it, they won’t be as cautious.

Sweet Corn and Feed Corn

Corn makes a awesome chum for catching grass carp. It’s delicious to the carp and the bright yellow color makes it easy for them to find. Corn is also cheap and not too messy.

Canned sweet corn is popular for anglers who are just going out for a day of fishing. They can get it for fairly cheap and it’s ready to use right out of the can. Just chuck handfuls of corn out around the area you’ll be casting to. Just be sure to save a handful for your hook bait!

Feed Corn is better for anglers who plan to chum an area over the course of a week or two. The reason is because it’s a lot cheaper when you buy it in bulk. Feed corn does take some preparation time. You should soak the kernels until they become somewhat soft. You can boil them to speed up the process.

The problem with corn is that it can bring in all kinds of fish. So you may have problems with smaller fish stealing your bait and chum.


Bait for grass carp

Boilies are a great chum for grass carp. One of the major benefits is that little fish like bluegill can’t steal them. If you fish in a pond packed with little bait stealing fish, then boilies may be your best bet.

Boilies can also be used as a hook bait, and should be if that’s what you are chumming with. They can’t be put directly on the hook so you’ll have to use a hair rig.

Boilies by themselves aren’t super flavorful so it’s a good idea to coat them in some sort of fruity scent liquid.

Boilies can be expensive, especially if you are using them as chum. You can make your own boilies and save a lot of money, but you’ll have to take the time to do so.

Here is a simple Boilie recipe
  1. In a mixing bowl, add 1 cup of corn meal
  2. Next add 1 cup of flour
  3. Add 1/2 cup of sugar
  4. Add 2 eggs
  5. Mix everything well and kneed into a dough
  6. If the mix is too dry add a little water. If it is too wet add a little flour. It should come out similar to bread dough that you can roll into little balls.
  7. Pull off little bits of dough and roll them into balls about the size of a marble or a little bigger
  8. Dump the balls into boiling water and boil for about 3 minutes
  9. Lay the boilies out to dry on a paper towel for a few hours

Bird Seed

The great thing about bird seed as chum is that it is so small, it will keep the carp in the area longer as they try to find every little seed.

Bird seed can also be found for very cheap. Try to get a bag that doesn’t have sunflower seeds, as those won’t sink to the bottom.

Bird seed has to be prepared by soaking. If you don’t soak the seeds before hand, many of them will float away. Floating seeds also attract smaller fish to the area.

You can’t put bird seed on the hook, but you can throw some corn in along with it and use that as your hook bait. You can also make bird seed into a pack bait which will leave a nice big pile of seed around your hook. The grass carp will think they have found the jack pot and go to town.

Tips To Catch Grass Carp

picture of grass carp
Grass carp I caught on bread in an Arizona Canal

To be honest, grass carp can be difficult to catch. They are usually found in shallow water and are always on the look out for predators. If they see you, they’ll spook. They are often found in schools, so if you spook one, you spook them all.

Here are some tips to help you catch these wary fish.

Be Stealth

Stocking is one of the most challenging but exciting ways to catch grass carp. Something about sneaking up on prey seems to be built into our DNA and gets your heart pumping.

You really have to be sneaky when trying to catch grass carp. Once you have spotted some grass carp, try to keep your profile low. Crawl on the ground if you have to. Try to stay behind bushes, trees or tall grass.

Wear clothes that blend in with the background. Greens and browns are best. Blue jeans and a red t-shirt are going to stand out to the carp and they won’t let you get close.

Try to get close enough that you don’t need a float or sinker to cast. Try to use just a hook and piece of bread. Make sure you have a long clear leader that the fish won’t see. A longer, softer rod with 8 pound line will work better to flick such a light bait out.

Be Silent

You’re fine to talk to your friend while fishing on the bank, but noises like walking around in a boat and dropping stuff sends sound waves far into the water. You also want to avoid casting too often and creating a lot of splashes. This is sure to keep grass carp away from your bait.

Cast And Wait

Carp like to cruise around the pond and if you have cast in their cruising path then all you have to do is wait for them to come across it. A good way to know where to cast is if you have seen grass carp in that spot before. Use chum to keep them there once they have made their rounds.

Aren’t Grass Carp Ruining Our Waterways?

It is true that grass carp are not native to the US. Introducing a new species is always going to have an affect on an ecosystem. However, biologists don’t find grass carp to be a major threat like other Asian carp. They are in fact very useful.

In Arizona, the grass carp is used throughout the canal system to too keep weeds down. In fact is is illegal to keep grass carp out of the canals because they are considered property of the SRP (Salt River Project). The grass carp have been sterilized so that they can’t get out of control.

Grass carp are often confused with their evil cousin the sliver carp. Silver carp are also an Asian carp, but they have taken over and become out of control. They are a major threat to the waterways they are expanding to. Over the past years, there has been a great fear that silver carp will make it into the great lakes and disrupt the commercial and sport fishery.

Silver carp
Photo from and their article on silver carp. The article can be found below.

Silver carp reproduce crazy fast. They are the carp you see in videos where thousands of them jump high into the air when a motor boat drives past. This is obviously dangerous as a 10 pound fish hitting you in the head at 30 mph could do some damage.

If you happen to catch a silver carp, kill it. But be careful about killing a grass carp, as it may belong to the government. Check your local fishing regulations before keeping a grass carp.

For more information on the sliver carp, check out this article about the war on silver carp from

By John

Hi I'm John. I'm the author of I have been obsessed with fishing since my dad took me to catch bluegill in the creek as a little kid, over 20 years ago. I love learning and perfecting all kinds of fishing techniques. I have spent time living in different countries learning their unique traditional fishing methods, and then combining the best of all worlds to catch as many fish as possible. My hope is that this website can help you, or someone you are teaching, to have a better fishing experience early on so that you too can be hooked into this wonderful sport.